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Design Studies 501: Material Culture of Childhood (Spring 2021) : Starting Your Research

Starting Your Research

1. Pick your object(s) and identify their time period. What are the thematic issues it addresses? Gender modeling, formal education, leisure time, family, moral instruction, etc.?

2. Create a list of questions to “ask” the object in an object analysis. The answers to these questions will give you more clues about the culture from whence the object originated.

 Questions might include:

“What material is the object? Why? How is this significant?”

  • “What does the object do? How? When would a child have used it?”
  • “How popular or accessible was this item to children? Is there a typical socio-economic group that would have used this toy? Was there a targeted cultural, religious, or racial group?”
  • “How does the object compare to other material culture examples from the time period?”
  • “What does this object reveal about the culture that produced it?"

3. Use readings from your syllabus to find scholarly sources on the topic. Look at the bibliographies to find good citations, and then look up the material in the Library Catalog. THEN, generate some terms to help guide your search for secondary sources in the Library Catalog and in the article databases provided in this guide.

Examples of search terms might include:

child* AND American AND toy

consum* AND culture AND child*

child* AND toy AND history

4. Pull lots of sources and look at the bibliographies of helpful material. Remember you can request items from off-campus.

5. Remember to also search for articles using similar keywords (or perhaps more specific). Use this LibraryGuide for database suggestions.

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